Journey to the centre of the dataverse, chapter 1

This is the beginning of our journey to the centre of the dataverse, otherwise known as the Customise My Data beta.

Deciphering data(bases)

Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth starts with Professor Lidenbrock locking everyone into his house until they decipher a coded note. We started in a similar way by getting everyone together to decipher the best way to store data and metadata.

We set up a number of different experiments and it appears that “murotad surup ainical mauqila” can be deciphered roughly as “graph database”. We’ll be doing more work in the next chapter to make sure that our code experts haven’t misplaced a rune in this translation.

(NB: If anyone from ONS HR is reading this, then please note that no developers were harmed during this production and that we did let people go home sometimes.)


As we’re going to be travelling through some scary data on our quest, we’ve done everything we can to prepare ourselves. This has included setting up our infrastructure, clarifying our approach to testing, planning our user research and looking at how we handle server-side form validation.

We’ve also sent some of our most experienced data wranglers into the field to create a list of the data that we want to capture and start a detailed description of a particularly tricky monster called “metadata”.

We’ll be reporting further on these topics but get in touch and let us know if you’d like to know more about any in particular. (Or if you have any other questions.)

screenshot from beta prototype

Setting out

Our journey to the centre of the dataverse is all in order to allow others to traverse the dataverse more easily. Based on previous work, we’ve created some new and improved options for users to safely access the dataverse. This is a clickable prototype. We’ll be testing these with users.

We’ve also looked at how users might want to preview their data.

Cliffhanging end to chapter

Will our heroes make it to the heart of the dataverse? Will they meet prehistoric data structures and survive? Will they suffer injuries from ill-advised wagers on improbable athletic feats? Return in 2 weeks to find out more.


ONS data wranglers looking out at data and metadata